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J Cell Physiol. 1985 Jan;122(1):21-9.

Enterocytic differentiation of a subpopulation of the human colon tumor cell line HT-29 selected for growth in sugar-free medium and its inhibition by glucose.


In order to study the effect of glucose on the differentiation of cultured human colon cancer cells, a subpopulation of HT-29 cells was selected for its capacity to grow in the total absence of sugar. These cells (Glc-cells) exhibit, after confluency, an enterocytic differentiation, in contrast to cells grown with glucose (Glc+ cells), which always remain undifferentiated. The differentiation is characterized by a polarization of the cell layer with apical brush borders and tight junctions, and by the presence of sucrase-isomaltase. The differentiation of Glc- cells is reversible: the addition of glucose to postconfluent cultures of Glc- cells results in an inhibiting effect on the expression of sucrase-isomaltase; switching growing cultures of Glc- cells to the Glc+ medium for several passages results in a progressive reversion to the undifferentiated state, which is completed after seven passages. The dedifferentiation process is associated with a parallel, passage-related, increase in the rates of glucose consumption and lactic acid production, and decreases of intracellular glycogen content, which return to the values of the undifferentiated original Glc+ cells. The values of these metabolic parameters are correlated, at each passage, with the degree of dedifferentiation of the cells. When these dedifferentiated cells, after having been cultured in Glc+ medium for 20 passages, are switched back to the Glc- medium, they readily grow without mortality, and reexpress the same enterocytic differentiation as the parent Glc- cells. These results show that the capacity of this subpopulation to grow and differentiate in the absence of sugar is a stable characteristic. They further suggest that glucose metabolism interferes with the program of differentiation of HT-29 cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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